Our parent’s age and they either go suddenly or slowly – either way is awful.
And as much as we prepare ourselves for the obvious inevitability; we are never ready to say goodbye.
I would say the worst thing by far is witnessing their demise.
When they first become ill, injured or otherwise incapacitated, they are still themselves but as it drags on and drags everyone along with it, the family is left exhausted, spent and staring at a petrified, confused stranger in a hospital bed who use to be their parent.
There are medical professionals who are very kind and do all they can. It’s important to realize that every patient who is admitted to their floor is followed by a long parade of characters consisting of family members all with their own personalities and idiosyncrasies, opinions and demands. They are upset, tired and fed up and that can make for a very unpleasant atmosphere for all.
It is hard to remain neutral when you find your loved one curled up, shivering in their bed, house coat open, bruises from falling because the bar was not put up or no one responded to the bell, a meal left sitting and rotting because they can’t feed themselves and the staff are too overburdened to do so and the tremendous guilt you feel in missing that one meal – any meal.
But the most gut-wrenching thing is when you come to the realization that they no longer know who you are and they just stare past you in oblivion. They mumble and nothing but a soft hum can be heard.
Yet you sense they recognize the crisis at hand and how scary it must be for them to feel locked up inside of their own bodies so badly wanting to escape and turn the whole disaster around.
All this while the family stands by the bed waiting for what is about to come down without knowing when.
And the other parent watches on as if it is a car wreck. They are in the passenger's seat, the car is on fire and they are unable to reach out and save them.
You stare at your cell phone and jump when it rings. You can’t sleep because you expect a call to come in any moment and you wonder if you should get in your car in your pajamas and head to their room to be there for everything – for nothing.
This time comes in all of our lives. It hits hard like a kick to the stomach and a punch to the head. One minute you are standing and the next you are down on your knees praying for them to go in peace and praying for them to stay.